U.S. House passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act
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U.S. House passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Industry organizations say the bill is a step in the right direction for immigration and agricultural visas.

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December 16, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, with a 260-165 bipartisan vote. The bill now moves to the Senate to be voted on, and if passed there, will require President Trump’s signature to be signed into law.

If signed into law, the act would change the H-2A temporary worker program and establish a “certified agricultural worker (CAW) status,” according to congress.gov. Among other changes, H-2A adjustments would include the creation of a new electronic system for H-2A casework and modify “the method for calculating and making adjustments to the H-2A worker minimum wage.” Certified agricultural workers could apply to be lawful permanent residents of the United States.

AmericanHort released the following statement after the House passed the act:

“For years, our growers have struggled with a broken immigration and agricultural visa system that harms their ability to succeed and sustain their farms and businesses in today’s marketplace. In view of the huge contributions the horticulture industry makes to local and national economies, action here couldn’t be more welcome,” said AmericanHort Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge. “This is the first time in over 30 years that the House has acted affirmatively to address the agricultural labor issue.”

In addition, AmericanHort said the following: “This bill addresses the challenge with solutions that stabilize the current agricultural and horticultural workforce, improve the legal channels for future seasonal and permanent workers in the farming sector, and advance integrity in the hiring process.”

The United Fresh Produce Association said that, “For years, the produce industry and our agriculture sector partners have made an overwhelming case for legislation to reform our broken immigration system and help build a legal and reliable workforce. With the passage of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House of Representatives, we are now on the way towards finally achieving the reform our members so desperately need.

“This legislation marks an important first step in that process and it includes the basic principles of immigration reform that we have long advocated for,” United Fresh continued. “The bill provides legal status for the current workforce, reforms the current federal agriculture guestworker program known as H-2A and ensures that we will have future access to a skilled, dedicated workforce. The bill also includes provisions to ensure the proper enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws, but is contingent upon including the reforms to the current and future workforce for which we have long advocated.